Along with a Hori Hori, a pair of secateurs is probably our most used garden tool.
With a tool that gets used regularly we feel its worth investing in a pair that, with regular maintenance, will last you a lifetime. For us its also important for them to be a pleasure to use - both functionally with a sharp clean cut and ergonomically. They've got to feel "right" in the hand.
The Niwaki Sentei Secateurs are great all round secateur for the garden and a superb introduction to authentic Japanese pruning tools. They are drop forged in robust SK carbon steel. That means that the rough shape is formed in a mould and then finished by hand. They tend to be marginally heavier than a fully hand forged secateur, but in our testing it's hardly noticeable.
The high carbon steel holds an edge well, and can be easily sharpened when needed. If you are new to carbon steel you need to be aware that its negative is that it will tarnish easily with acidic sap (you'll get black marks on the blade.) It will also get a layer of light surface rust quickly if left in a damp environment. However with regular maintenance, a quick clean and oil, they will last a lifetime. We sell a secateur maintenance kit which includes all you need here. The quality of the cutting edge outweighs this negative in our eyes.
You'll sometimes see Japanese secateurs referred to as a "letter-shape." These Sentei's are a classic "A" shape - which means the cutting blade is in the middle of the handles. (S-type secateurs have the blade off to one side.)
The simplicity of design is a major plus as well. There's nothing to go wrong with them. The spring is replaceable and they come with a spare in the box. The clip is chunky and robust.